Williamston indoor dining opens with tight guidelines

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Restaurants like The Bistro, 151 S. Putnam St., Williamston, Michigan, have added extra precautions for a safer dining experience.

“The QR codes (for contactless menus), obviously masks are mandatory, also we have a daily staff wellness check-in through the Health Department, both doors we’ve added hand sanitizers as well as the collage of regulations and rules.” said Paula Dodd, assistant manager at The Bistro. 

Williamston restaurants are following tight gathering guidelines put in place by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to ensure safety.

After a decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the MDHHS lifted the extended “pause” in place since mid-November.

New restrictions and protocol 

Restaurants and bars opened, provided they followed a 25% capacity limit and adhered to a list of  precautions such as mandatory mask use, socially distanced tables, limited party size and proper sanitation between guests. 

MDHHS signs listing all rules, proper and working ventilation, and contact tracing exposure notification procedures were required to be in place before reopening as well.

 The Bistros’ “collaged” doorway displays the required Covid-19 protocols and rules to enter the restaurant. Photo taken by Olivia Santelli

Employee challenges during the in-person closure

Decreased business pushed Williamston Pub and Grill, 132 Grand River Ave., Tavern 109, 115 East Grand River Rd., and The Bistro to let go of employees. 

“Majority of us work two jobs but it’s just been a little hard though because there’s only two of us on a shift compared to four.” said Olivia Della-Moretta, bartender at Williamston Pub and Grill. 

Staying open for delivery and takeout allowed more senior staff members to remain working even with lockdown restrictions in place.  

“I  was actually one of the people who did take out the whole time, so I didn’t  end up on benefits, but most people did, since we didn’t have the hours to employ everybody.” said server at Tavern 109 in Williamston.  

However, lack of steady income and limited hours due to closure forced layoffs causing non-essential staff to file unemployment for longer than originally expected.  

“We did have to lay off most of our staff. We went from a staff of 13 to 4, and we are still at 4,” said Dodd. “The goal is to hire back those who are available and willing to come back when possible.” 

Williamston community supporting local small businesses

Community skeletons supporting the Williamston Bar and Grill, blocking seats to enforce social distancing. Photo taken by Olivia Santelli

The support from the community was evident allowing local restaurants to feel embraced. 

“I had a lady who came in on one of the first days that we were doing takeout only, and she said that her husband wanted Taco Bell but she refused and said she would only get one of the small local places.” 

The Bistros community of regular customers has supported them since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Weekly I know that I can count on a to go order from certain people almost like clockwork … they also offered tips and advice. They really come through for us,” said Dodd. “It really is the community that has kept us alive this long.”

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